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Children's Street Connections in a Canadian Community

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 48 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2004 Pages: 189-292
Robert V. J. Basso; John Graham; William Pelech; Ted De Young; Ray Cardley
Date Published
April 2004
14 pages
This study examined the street activities and interactions of preteen children in a small southern Ontario town in light of Canada’s new 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act, which became law in April 2003, emphasizes greater accountability among youth and allows for youths as young as 14 to be tried as adults. The Act also incorporates an emphasis away from court and toward community-based responses for less serious and nonviolent youth crimes and promotes the development of community-based programs to prevent youth crime. Although community-based crime initiatives are not new, little is known about how informal support networks intervene and prevent youth from engaging in delinquent activities in the first place. The current study examined how children in kindergarten through 8th grade negotiated their after school social environments and their naturally occurring street interactions with other children and adults. The main point of the study was to discover whether street experiences would provoke, harm, or assist children in gaining resiliency and staying crime-free. The three research questions focused on who the children interact with on the street; whether the children exhibit aggressive behaviors and callous attitudes while on the street; and whether there are social supports, monitoring, and bonding opportunities for children on the street after school. Results of interviews and direct observations indicated that the everyday connections between children, shopkeepers, and municipal workers demonstrate that nonfamilial adults can offer caring, support, and sanctions to children on the street when familial adults are not present. These findings provide important evidence that extrafamilial adult-child interactions can encourage the prosocial development of children in their neighborhoods. This holds important implications for community-based intervention programs based on the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. Strategies should encourage businesses, schools, social agencies, and police to explore each other’s experiences with children on the street in order to shape appropriate community-based responses. Tables, references